Business

Meet the chicken elite of Silicon Valley

This is Queen Elizabeth.

Christie Hemm Klok for The Washington Post

And her roommate Bear.

They’re upper-class residents of a cozy coop on a deck in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood, which overlooks the historic and picturesque Sutro Forest.

Queen Elizabeth is a Barnevelder, a Dutch chicken breed. Bear is a Lavender Orpington, which originate from southeast England.

These are their humans.

And those humans — Matt and Lauren Van Horn and their 2-year-old daughter, Sadie — are part of a movement that has elevated rare, egg-laying chickens to backyard royalty.

There are tens of thousands of backyard chickens in California, but they have become especially popular in Silicon Valley, where the nation's eco-conscious local food capital overlaps with the tech elite.

Here’s a glimpse into the Van Horns’ average egg-filled morning — the laying, the collecting and the eating.

Like many Bay Area families that own chickens, the Van Horn family cares for those of the “heritage breed,” a designation for rare, nonindustrial birds whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations.

Matt visits the family's chickens in the morning and after dinner with Sadie, who gives her pet chickens organic vegetable and fruit scraps from the Van Horns’ dinner table. The toddler loves collecting eggs. Matt loves watching his daughter experience nature.

Matt and Laura no longer bring wine to dinner parties. Instead, they arrive with a six-pack of eggs. Each carton is stamped with the family’s specially designed seal of approval: “VH SF Eggs.”

“It’s super weird that we have chickens at our non-backyard, San Francisco home,” said Matt, 33. “But I find that it makes for a great conversational icebreaker.”

Before they embarked on their chicken adventure, the family said, they knew nothing about chickens. Now friends call the Van Horn household “the petting zoo.”

The Van Horns, and families like them, say one of the greatest benefits of chicken ownership is that they offer a kind of digital detox.

“It’s really nice to have this tactile feel of filling the chickens’ food, filling their water, feeding them and petting them,” said Matt, who was introduced to the chicken life by his company’s senior electrical engineer. “Experiencing them is a way of getting away from the technology that is in our lives so much of the time.”